Aaron Nola's Cy Young chances took a hit in the Phillies' latest loss Wednesday night. Nola lasted just five innings and gave up four runs, three on a pair of homers, in a 5-1 loss to the Washington Nationals, who swept the three-game series.
Nola's ability to keep the ball in the yard had been impressive for most of the season. But after allowing just eight homers in his first 27 starts, he has surrendered seven in his last three. Nola is 16-5 with a 2.42 ERA in 30 starts.
Where they stand
Since they topped out at 63-48 and led the NL East by 1½ games on Aug. 5, the Phillies are 11-23. Their record is now 74-71. Incredible as it may seem given where they once were, the Phils might not even finish with a .500 record.
They are still in second place, trailing Atlanta by 7½ games with 17 to play. But they are only a half-game better than third-place Washington.
The Phils' deficit of 7½ games with 17 to play sounds familiar. Oh, yeah, that's how far they were behind the Mets when they came back to win the NL East in the Jimmy Rollins, "We're the team to beat," year of 2007. This team doesn't look capable of a similar comeback. This team is going in the wrong direction and appears out of gas.
Phillies have a new owner
Actually they don't, but Stephen Strasburg does own them in the figurative sense. He pitched seven innings of one-run ball, walked none and struck out nine, to improve his lifetime mark against the Phils to 12-2 in 24 starts.
Not much offense
Manager Gabe Kapler praised his hitting coaches before the game (see story). Then the Phils went out and had just five hits. J.P. Crawford had three of them with an infield single, a bloop single and a homer.
Time to see some kids
Kapler said he would continue to play lineups that give the Phillies the best chance to win, but with their playoff hopes all but faded he is likely to get a look at some of the team's younger players. The exercise started Wednesday night when Crawford started his first game at shortstop since June 18. Crawford got the Phillies on the scoreboard with a solo homer against Strasburg in the fifth inning.
Another young player, Roman Quinn, could be ready to return to the starting lineup as soon as Friday. He has been out since suffering a broken toe last week.
Kapler is consistent in strategy
The Phils trailed, 4-1, after Crawford's homer in the fifth. Jorge Alfaro was then hit by a pitch. Nola was on his way out of the game, but it was possible he could have stayed around to try to move Alfaro to second with a bunt. Kapler instead sent Justin Bour to the plate to pinch-hit. That was no surprise because all season Kapler has made it clear that he will play for big innings and you do that by swinging the bat. Bour struck out. Cesar Hernandez struck out. Rhys Hoskins popped out to the catcher. Alfaro never advanced past first base and the Nats added a run on a solo homer by Juan Soto in the top of the sixth.